By Mark H. Reddig
Host, Land Line Now
Copyright © OOIDA
Picture this: You’re approaching a railroad crossing.
A car crosses the tracks first, but then – just after crossing, with you shortly behind – the car for some reason comes to a complete stop.
And that leaves you in a very precarious spot that quickly turns into a potentially deadly situation, as the train crashes into your truck.
A truck-train collision is one of the worst accidents a trucker can ever encounter.
It’s a situation that a coalition of several organizations is trying to prevent.
The organizations are Operation Lifesaver, which promotes rail crossing safety; the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association; the Missouri Department of Transportation; and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
Of course, the effort is not limited to Missouri. It was announced at a series of press conference nationwide a short time ago.
What the groups are promoting is a new online training tool for truckers and other commercial vehicle drivers that’s designed to help them avoid those potentially deadly collisions.
The need is obvious, as Rick Mooney of Operation Lifesaver explained.
“We’re trying to get our message out because 25 percent of all crashes between trains are with trucks, or commercial motor vehicle drivers and their equipment,” Mooney said. “And we want to reach them. It’s difficult to do it, because they’re at the same time traveling on the highways. And we hope that this method may help us get the message out to them.”
While the problem is national, Tim Hull of the Missouri State Highway Patrol said it is especially important to address it in the state of Missouri – for a number of reasons.
“Missouri has the second- and the third-largest rail terminals in the nation in Kansas City and St. Louis,” Hull said. “So naturally there are a lot of trains operating every day across our state. In fact, there are over 700 trains per day that cross over our state on more than 4,000 miles worth of track.
“So you combine that with Missouri commercial vehicles (which) represent about 28 percent of the traffic on our highways today; you can see the possibilities there,” he added. “With more than 6,800 public and private crossings, where the roads actually cross over the tracks, safety – rail safety – is an important concern in Missouri.
“Overall, 59 percent of all highway rail grade crossing crashes in Missouri last year occurred at crossings equipped with either flashing light signals, or flashing lights and gates,” Hull said. “Eighty eight percent of our crossing fatalities and 61 percent of our injury rail grade crossing crashes with all vehicles occurred last year at an active warning crossing.
“Seven of our eight fatalities occurred at a crossing where there was prior warning that the train was coming.
“These active warning devices alert the motorist the train is approaching, yet people are either ignoring them, or they’re trying to simply beat the train to the crossing.”
Many drivers might be tempted to think they don’t need to worry about this kind of thing, that they already know what they need to know, that they don’t deal with rail crossings enough to need the training.
But Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA, said that all drivers should be thinking about the topic every time they encounter a rail crossing.
He added that rail crossings are incredibly common where truckers work